Telehealth occupational therapy—yes, you read that right. You might be thinking, “How am I supposed to facilitate an activity with a child on the other side of a computer screen?” The key is occupation-based coaching. Rather than focusing on directing each intervention and doing the activity with the child, consider a parent-coaching model. Parent coaching involves the principles of a method called occupation-based coaching.
What is occupation-based coaching?
Occupation-based coaching provides interventions that include working directly with caregivers to create strategies to help the child participate in daily activities. This intervention model focuses on improving the parent-child interaction and creating child-learning opportunities within the child’s routine and contexts.
Why does parent coaching work well with telehealth?
Telehealth is a “hands-off” approach. Occupational therapists have no choice but to facilitate the session with verbal and visual communication only. That means the occupational therapist takes the role of an observer while the parent takes the “hands-on” approach.
Active participation from parents during sessions results in improved child outcomes and increased parent competence. One way to accomplish this virtually is to make sure that you and your client have the same materials. That way, you’re able to work on the same activity “together” even though you’re not in the same room.
Is parent coaching effective?
Yes. Parent coaching results in the child meeting goals and participating in their occupations. It also yields increased satisfaction from the parent’s perspective and better parent-child relationships. As the occupational therapist, you’re not observing the child day in and day out. But the parent or caregiver is. So when the caregiver or parent receives effective coaching, they’re able to apply those learned tools and skills outside of the designated session time.
Strategies for Occupation-Based Coaching
1. Work with the parent/caregiver/guardian to establish the goals. Start with the evaluation process. The occupation-based coaching model relies on regular collaboration between the occupational therapist and the parent—and that includes establishing united goals. Parents can identify goals that will impact the child’s daily routine and are meaningful to their family.
2. Focus on the parent-child relationship. Support the relationship between the caregiver and the child. Ask about the caregiver’s insights about the child’s behaviors. It’s important to help both the parent and child better understand each other.
3. Observe. Observation is key in occupational therapy, but it’s the most important component of telehealth sessions. Observe how the parent and child interact. Take a good look at the child’s home environment and context. Keen observation will make it easier to identify additional, new intervention ideas that’ll make an impact.
4. Provide feedback. Once you’ve observed the environment and context, have a conversation with the caregiver about how effective the strategies used during the sessions were. Engage in problem-solving with the caregiver in order to build their knowledge of the situation. That way, they can better identify what’s working and what’s not.
What Parents Think of Occupation-Based Coaching
Parents appreciate having interventions occur in the child’s natural environment. They feel like they’re able to establish a partnership with the occupational therapist and can truly collaborate with them. This gives the caregiver or parent more confidence to come up with their own strategies to help their child. Two common takeaways parents have with occupation-based coaching is a changed perspective of their child’s behavior and an emphasis on their strengths.
Now pair that with telehealth, parents are able to reduce travel time, which is essential for travel with little ones. It also offers greater flexibility, especially with scheduling. Occupational therapy via telehealth has also shown to increase focus on the entire family, which enriches the experience and improves the outcomes for everyone involved. Plus, with the caregiver being the one to use a “hands-on” approach, they’re naturally more engaged during sessions.
Telehealth occupational therapy services is an underutilized mode that complements real life—the way it is today, not how it was yesterday. Just be ready for some amazing results!
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